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Bouncer shot 12 times on Kanawha Boulevard; bar shut down

A bouncer at a downtown Charleston bar was shot 12 times early Saturday by two men who had been kicked out of the bar earlier that night, according to Charleston police.

Police arrested one man shortly after the shooting occurred and were looking for another man. Saturday afternoon, state government officials revoked the bar’s liquor license while police investigate the shooting.

Richard “Jimmy” Beasley, who is a bouncer at The Cellar, located at 8 Capitol St., was shot on Kanawha Boulevard near Capitol Street around 2:20 a.m. Beasley was shot while he was escorting two women to their vehicle, Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster and Chief of Detectives Lt. Steve Cooper said at a news conference Saturday morning.

Beasley was in critical condition as of 4:45 p.m. Saturday and is awaiting additional surgeries, Cooper said. Earlier Saturday, he described Beasley’s condition as “grave” and said he is on a ventilator.

George Sawyer, 29, of 5th Avenue, Charleston, was arrested by police moments after the shooting. Sawyer tried to evade arrest by jumping into the Kanawha River, Cooper said, but he came back out.

Beasley was found on Kanawha Boulevard, around the corner from Capitol Street. Police arrived almost immediately after the shooting, Cooper said, and were directed by witnesses toward Sawyer.

Police believe Sawyer got rid of his weapon in the river. Charleston police divers will try to retrieve it Sunday, Cooper said.

Police are looking for Tasheem Collins, of Charleston, in connection with the shooting. Police believe Sawyer and Collins might be brothers.

Beasley apparently has worked at The Cellar for several years.

“Jimmy has been a bouncer downtown for quite a few years; he’s always been a great friend and a good guy,” Paul Greco, owner of nearby Sam’s Uptown Cafe and the Boulevard Tavern, said Saturday afternoon.

According to Greco, Beasley had kicked the two suspects out of the bar earlier in the night. That matched up with what Webster and Cooper said.

“He was basically just walking a couple of girls to their car, and had apparently kicked out a couple of guys at The Cellar,” Greco said. “From what we’ve gathered, this was just a vengeful act.” 

One of the women who Beasley was escorting was grazed by a bullet but was not seriously wounded, Cooper said.

When Sawyer was arrested, he had what police believed to be a gunshot wound to his forearm. Police were still determining how he got it. Webster and Cooper said no officers fired their service weapons at the arrest scene.

Late Saturday afternoon, the state Alcohol Beverage Control Administration suspended The Cellar’s liquor license for 10 days. ABCA spokesman Gig Robinson said Commissioner Ronald Moats made the decision on his own, and not at the request of Charleston Mayor Danny Jones or other city officials.

“Upon becoming aware of the situation, [Moats] took swift action,” Robinson said.

Last year, city officials took steps to shut down the Impluse nightclub on Capitol Street —about a block away from The Cellar — after a series of violent incidents there. The last straw was the stabbing of a University of Charleston football player outside the bar in January 2013, following an altercation inside Impulse. The ABCA pulled Impulse’s liquor license, as well, during that investigation.

Robinson said Saturday he didn’t know of any history of incidents regarding The Cellar. “That’s going to be one of the things that goes into the equation,” he said.

The Cellar’s owner could not be reached for comment Saturday evening.

Late-night police patrols have increased in the downtown area since the stabbing outside Impulse last year, and Jones, Webster and Cooper said Saturday that the city’s plan is working.

“I think the police deserve some credit here,” Jones said. On both Beasley’s shooting and the shooting of a teenager on the West Side earlier in the week, “they were right around the corner,” he said.

Reach Lydia Nuzum at or 304-348-5189.

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